Article written by 2011 DPDF Provincializing Global Urbanism: Toward Multiple Urban Futures research director Ananya Roy.
The Asian Century can be understood as a historical conjuncture marked by new formations of economic hegemony and bold claims of Asian ascendancy. Situated at this historical moment, this essay examines a particular project of postcolonial government: inclusive growth. Taking up the example of India’s recent Slum-free Cities policy, it shows how postcolonial government tackles the problem of urban poverty in order to make the Asian world-class city. Slum-free Cities marks a shift in city-making projects and indeed in the project of modernization—from slum evictions and demolitions to the integration of the poor into market rule. This essay provides an analysis of such emerging configurations of state, economy and poverty. Yet, such projects of inclusive growth are marked by paradoxes and limits, notably the complexity of transforming slum lands into legible and monetized property markets. These dilemmas are not new, and in fact, the archives of postcolonial government indicate repeated recitations of slum modernization. This longer history also indicates the need to view the Asian Century and its city-making projects, not as rupture or renaissance but instead as a citationary structure which enables distinctive teleologies of development and projects of postcolonial power.